Gardaí discovered four guns, a makeshift firing range and targets when they raided a suspected Continuity IRA training camp at a clearing in the Comeragh mountains, the Special Criminal Court heard today.
They found four men at a firing point being given instructions by two others and three men armed with shotguns acting as sentries, the court was told.
Gardaí who had been observing the training heard up to 60 shots being fired, including rifle and small arms fire, prosecuting counsel Mr Patrick J. Mc Carthy SC said. Nine men arrested at the scene have pleaded guilty to firearms offences.
They are Patrick Deery (aged 53), a native of Claudy, Co Derry, with an address at Woodhouse, Stradbally, Co Waterford, Joseph Mooney (aged 36), of Ozzier Court, Co Waterford, John O' Halloran (aged 34), of Ross Avenue, Mulgrave St, Limerick, Mark Mc Mahon (aged 36), of Commodore Barry Park, Wexford, Patrick J. Kelly (aged 37), of Belvedere Grove, Wexford and Dean Coleman (aged 23), of Clarina Avenue, Ballinacurra Weston, Limerick who pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of a American model rifle in suspicious circumstances at Knocknaree, Knockatedaun, Ballmacarbry, Co Waterford on August 3, 2003.
Thomas Barry (aged 21), of Larchville, Lisduggan, Co Waterford and Brian Galvin (aged 38), of Ardmore Park, Ballybeg, Co Waterford pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of a Baikal under and over shotgun in suspicious circumstances at Ballymacarbry, Co Waterford on the same date.
Michael Leahy (aged 23), of Mc Carthyville, Abbeyside, Dungarvan, Co Waterford pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of a sawn off single barrel shotgun at Ballmacarbry, Co Waterford on the same date.
Mr Mc Carthy told the court that gardaí acting on information had kept an afforested area in the Comeragh under observation. The area was six miles from Clonmel and was a clearing in the afforested area. Gardaí kept the area under observation between 1.25 pm and 3.40 pm before moving in and arresting the nine men.
"The purpose was to conduct a training camp or training activities with firearms,’’ he added.
Mr Mc Carthy said that gardaí found makeshift paper targets containing holes and spare targets.
They also found two rifles mounted on tripods approximately 100 metres from the targets. The group of nine men had arrived in a van and a car.
Mr Mc Carthy said that three of the weapons - a .22 rifle and a .17 rifle, and a double barrelled shotgun - were legally held weapons but the fourth gun, a single barrelled sawn off shotgun had been stolen.
The rifles which had telescopic sights and the shotguns were shown to the court.
Detective Superintendent Liam King, Waterford, told the court that Galvin, Barry and Leahy were acting as sentries at a T junction some distance from the firing range. They had a legally held shotgun and the sawn off shotgun.
He said the target consisted of a tar barrel with paper targets and there was also cleaning equipment for firearms.
Gardaí found two rifles, a .22 rifle which was legally held by Deery and a .17 rifle legally held by Mooney. There was a blanket on the ground for those at the firing point and there were also surgical gloves.
When gardaí searched Deery’s home they found a number of spent shells, three balaclavas, berets and gloves, a collection box for republican prisoners, a Republican Sinn Féin agenda, tin whistle with IRA on it, Easter lilies and 20 pairs of rubber gloves.
In a search of Mooney’s home they found a balaclava, five disposable suits, a An Phoblacht diary and a list of names. At Mc Mahons’ home they found 14 green army jumpers, five green berets, two black berets, two pairs of white gloves and a copy of Saoirse newspaper. Mc Mahon said he had bought the army clothing at an army surplus store at the Curragh for use at Easter parades.
In a search at Kelly’s home, gardaí found a map of Portlaoise prison, a list of phone numbers, republican newspapers and tickets for a Republican Sinn Féin lottery.
At Leahy’s home they found a copy of Saoirse newspaper, a republican calendar and a republican roll of honour.
At Barry’s home, gardaí found an air pistol, a catapult, a photo of Martin Mc Guinness and Thomas Barry, a sheet of paper with CIRA on it and newspaper clippings.
Gardaí found a photo of Martin Ferris and Barry Galvin at Galvin’s home, a tricolour with the names of hunger strikers on it and pamphlets about the hunger strike.
Superintendent King said that Deery had taken three of the others to the scene in his car. At the scene Deery was forward of the firing point issuing commands in a northern accent. These commands were: "Load, aim, fire." Mooney was at the firing point and was giving instructions in the use of the firearms.
Supt King told Ms Deirdre Murphy SC , who appeared for Mooney, that he had given an explanation that he was stalking deer, after his arrest.
Ms Murphy said: "This was not a sophisticated operation. It’s a group of men up in the Comeragh mountains with sporting rifles, three of which were legally held."
Mr Justice Richard Johnson, presiding, said the court hoped to give its sentences on Thursday morning.